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Originally published Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 8:05 PM

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Director leaving agency crafting new pot rules

Pat Kohler will leave the state Liquor Control Board to become director of the Department of Licensing, according to the office of Gov. Jay Inslee.

The Associated Press

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OLYMPIA — The agency creating a regulated marijuana system in Washington state will lose its director, whom Gov. Jay Inslee appointed to a new job.

Pat Kohler will leave the Washington State Liquor Control Board to become director of the state Department of Licensing, according to Inslee’s office.

The Liquor Control Board is now developing rules for a legal marijuana industry involving how plants will be grown, how marijuana products will be tested for strength and quality, and how many retail stores will be allowed.

Kohler will start the new job at the beginning of June, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said. The Liquor Control Board will work to select a new director.

Inslee is confident board members and staff members will keep the marijuana system moving forward in Kohler’s absence, Smith said.

“I expect a very smooth transition here,” Kohler added, pointing to a strong management team implementing a recreational marijuana system, something so far untested on the planet.

Kohler, 52, said she’s leaving the historic endeavor because it’s been a goal of hers to serve in a Cabinet post. The Department of Licensing is much bigger, with 1,400 employees, than the liquor board, which now has 242 employees, she noted.

She also will get a pay raise. She made $101,532 last year, according to state records. She said her new salary will be around $137,000.

Kohler’s background is in accounting. She ran the state’s Department of General Administration and worked in the state Auditor’s Office before spending 11 years at the liquor board.

Brian Smith, a spokesman for the Liquor Control Board, said Kohler is committed to continuing the agency’s work until she leaves. He said the board just learned of the departure, so there was no immediate plan for how the agency will proceed in selecting a replacement.

Washington and Colorado voted last fall to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over age 21. Washington state officials are now working to develop legal marijuana sales at state-licensed stores.

The board will begin vetting draft rules for all license types with stakeholders in mid-May. The rules are expected to become effective in August, with the board starting to accept applications for growing, processing and retailing licenses in September.

Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Young contributed to this report.

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